5 ways to future-proof your finances

Planning for the unexpected, by definition, is incredibly difficult: If you don’t know what’s going to happen then how could you possibly prepare for it? This can be very distressing when you think about your finances and how difficult it is to guard against an untold number of hidden dangers. While we cannot know exactly what is going to happen, you can build a buffer between yourself and financial disaster by following these 5 suggestions.

1. Create and stick to a budget

The best way to keep your spending under control is to set up a budget and remain disciplined in spending only what your plan says you should.

While some may see their household budget as a list that holds back their spending, savvy savers see their budget as a tool that lets them reach their financial goals. Writing down all your expenses helps you divide them into fixed costs – bills like rent, food, electricity, insurance and so on that are essential – and variable costs – the non-essentials you can afford with the money left over.

Your budget is powerful in helping you manage your money and plan properly for the future. First off, you’ll have a clear idea of where you’re spending your money, including where you could cut back. The reason for cutting back is so that you can commit that money to your savings goals.

One of these goals should be to build up an emergency savings fund to take care of unexpected emergencies.

2. Start saving

The benefits of saving every month are best appreciated when you suddenly depend on the money you’ve been putting away in your emergency fund.

Ideally, you want to make a monthly commitment that you can afford to put away. A scheduled transfer to your savings account, as soon as your salary is in your bank account, is the best way to force this discipline on yourself. Your future welfare depends on making the right decisions today. 

This is a lesson that is often repeated when there are wild stock market swings 

If your income doesn’t allow for a regular contribution, at least make the commitment to put any extra money into this savings account.

Even the smallest amounts will add up over time – and you can start a savings MyPocket on the Nedbank Money app with as little as R1. The important thing is to keep on saving – and to not dip into your savings until absolutely necessary.

3. Pay off your debts faster

As useful as credit can be, it definitely makes sense to try and settle your debts as quickly as you can. Firstly, this will lower the total amount of interest you pay back, and once you’ve settled the debts you can redirect those payments into savings account deposits.

Paying off your debts faster means you have to make some sacrifices, as you’ll have to pay back more than the minimum amount if you want to shorten the payback period. In general, doubling the minimum amount due every month should cut your payback period in half, and result in you paying back half as much interest as you would have.


4. Don’t let go of your investments or insurance cover

Your future welfare depends on making the right decisions today. This is a lesson that is often repeated when there are wild stock market swings, and the reason it’s repeated is because panic-selling will cost you in the long run.

The reason for this is that the long-term trend for all markets is upward. However, people tend to forget that the long line snaking steadily upwards is made up of upswings as well as downward dips.

Take the 2020 market crash caused by the Covid-19 pandemic: a year after the dramatic 30% crash of March 2020, global markets had not only recovered but climbed to new highs. No-one could have predicted that, least of all those who sold their investments when the market was at its lowest, effectively locking in the 30% they’d lost at that point.

Growing your income outside of your regular salary can be a secret weapon

The lesson is therefore simple, but often ignored: forget what the markets are doing and continue to make your monthly contributions. A short-term crisis will upset your long-term goals is if you make the wrong decision by selling when things are at their worst.

The same applies to insurance premiums. It’s tempting to treat them as a ‘variable cost’ when times are tough and let insurance cover on your property or income lapse. But if you would like your family and yourself to remain protected should further misfortunes strike, it makes more sense to keep paying insurance as a fixed cost and trim other non-essentials in your budget.

5. Diversify your income

This solution may not be possible for everyone, but earning additional income is a great way to build a financial safety buffer. This obviously requires some sacrifices on your part to give up more of your time, but the income from part-time or gig economy jobs can relieve a lot of pressure.

And this doesn’t have to be permanent. You might, for example, be saving for a deposit on a house. If you earn an extra R5,000 a month you could accumulate R120,000 over two years. That’s a handy 10% deposit on a R1,2 million home loan. For others, their side hustle is a life-long passion they’re happy to keep alive and earn some side income.

Fortunately, we all have skills that someone would be willing to pay for. There’s no end to the opportunities on offer for freelance book-keeping, design, hair-dressing, car detailing or neighbourhood handyman services.

Whichever route you choose, growing your income outside of your regular salary can be a secret weapon that lets you build a strong-enough position against financial calamity.